Squeezing my hand, the frail voice whispered, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, ” The nurse rolled him further on his side, he groaned, “For you are with me." His grip tightened around my hand as he gasped, "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
I glanced over at the nurse who was packing his wound with gauze. Tears were streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry, almost done.” She looked at me, her eyes filled with despair.
It was the worst decubitus ulcer I had ever seen- a gaping, five inches wide, to the bone, bed sore. Nursing home neglect had taken its toll and now Tom had been moved to our hospice house to die.
As the nurse kept working, Tom’s jaw tightened, his voice strained. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." His voice weakened to a labored whispered, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I don’t know if the morphine finally took effect or if he passed out from the pain, but he fell unconscious. I loosened his hand from mine and looked at the frazzled nurse. I asked, “Have you ever seen such faith?”
I didn't have the answer then, and I still don’t. His family had abandoned him in a nursing home. He must have felt unwanted. Unloved. Tom never regained consciousness and died a few days later. In spite of his physical pain, emotional suffering and unanswered questions, the last words on his breath,"I shall dwell in the house of my Lord forever."
I wish I knew his life story, how his unshakable faith was forged. How he still felt the love of his Father in spite of pain. Thankfully, I look forward to asking him one day when I see him whole and in perfect health.
As I reflect on the end of his journey, I’m reminded of others who chose praise in their darkest hour. Jonah, Daniel, David, Paul... the list goes on. In fact, I think it's harder to find a Bible hero who didn't praise through his hardship than ones who did. How reassuring to know Tom is now in a circle of these great men of faith.